Solar Flares: Is Cassini Safe?

The following article represents a new red alert about the odds of a Cassini Earth fly-by accident. It's also another instance of NASA's failure to factor in serious possibilities for tragic mishaps.

A recent technical advance, described in the article below, gives humankind a four-day warning for major solar flare eruptions. Flare activity, which is at a high-point in its cycle, has already demonstrated the capacity to knock out power, electronics, and communications systems on earth and in our atmosphere.

In terms of averting a Cassini catastrophe, four days warning is far too little time. NASA's planned Venus fly-by on June 24 will hurl Cassini toward Earth for 55 days, traveling at 42,000 mph (64,000 km or 10 miles per second) with Plutonium containers that are NOT capable to withstand the heat of an "inadvertent" re-entry to our atmosphere.

Cassini has always been too risky, at any time. But as we continue to learn, the upcoming fly-by is scheduled for an especially dangerous moment.

We urge you to share this information with everyone you know, contact all elected officials in your area, via fax, letters, and telephone. With Cassini and weapons in space, it is timely to find a new direction that will bring health to Earth for generations.

Scientists Predict Violent Solar Storm...03/18/99

(ENN) By John Roach
As if Y2K weren't enough, there's another millennial menace to dread: solar storms.

Scientists expect a violent solar storm--perhaps the worst in a century--to strike sometime between now and January 2001. It may fry the insides of satellites, knock out power supplies, and generally wreak havoc on a technology-dependent society.

It will all start with a coronal mass ejection--a violent discharge of electrically charged gas from the sun's outer atmosphere. The explosion will hurl some ten billion tons of gas into space at speeds up to a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) an hour. Four days and 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) later, the storm will tear through Earth's magnetic field.


Solar storms have struck hard before. On March 13, 1989, a solar storm caused a power outage in Quebec, Canada, that left six million people without electricity. Last year a smaller storm was blamed for bringing down the Galaxy 4 satellite, halting news transmissions and pagers across North America for days. Fortunately, NASA space scientists announced on March 9 that they have found a way to forecast solar storms a few days in advance, giving satellite and power companies time to prepare for potential trouble.

The scientists discovered that an S-shaped structure appears on the sun in advance of a violent eruption. The S is called a sigmoid, a twisting of the sun's magnetic field. "Early warnings of approaching solar storms could prove useful to power companies, the communications industry, and organizations that operate spacecraft, including NASA," said a statement from George Withbroew, a NASA scientist. "This is a major step forward in understanding these tremendous storms."

With advanced warning, satellite companies can turn off high voltages on their satellites before the plasma cloud hits them, and power companies can briefly turn off parts of the grid until the surge of current passes.

A paper on the S-shaped sigmoids was published in the March 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

More on Solar Storms
(By Sten Odenwald, Special to The Washington Post, Wednesday, March 10, 1999)

Posted: 3/19/99 5:23:34 PM,
Last modified: 3/25/99 10:47:31 AM